Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Sochi Autodrom, 2021

Verstappen relieved to salvage second after “crucial” call for intermediates

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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After climbing from 20th to second in the Russian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen said the timing of his pit stop for intermediate tyres was “crucial” to his result.

Verstappen started the race last, following penalties both for a power unit replacement and a three-place grid drop from his collision with Lewis Hamilton in Monza.

He said making the decision to pit for intermediate tyres during sudden wet conditions in the last 10 laps of the race had been difficult.

“It was pretty tricky on the in-lap to make the call to go to inters,” Verstappen said. “But at one point it was really, really slippery. I think we decided at the right time to pit because if we would have gone one lap earlier, you would have probably destroyed the inters in the last sector.”

“But of course, to come from last to second is very, very good,” said Verstappen. Although he lost his championship lead to Hamilton, the pair are separated by just two points.

Verstappen was on course to finish around seventh place and lose considerably more points until the rain hit.

“The race itself was not very easy because it was very difficult to pass,” he explained. “Once you got stuck it was very easy to also damage your tyres. But luckily with the rain that helped us to make that that last jump.”

In light of his penalties, Verstappen said he had expected to end the race with a bigger points gap to Hamilton. “With the penalty we had, to lose only one spot basically is definitely not too bad. When I woke up this morning, I definitely didn’t expect this result.”

“A lot of things happen in the first lap and even in the first stint, with other cars also fighting each other,” he added. “You just have to stay out of trouble and stay clean. And I think we managed all of that very well.

“Then the crucial call to to go to the inters, things worked out well.”

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2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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33 comments on “Verstappen relieved to salvage second after “crucial” call for intermediates”

  1. He got lucky, ending up two points behind rather than seven, although seven is also small under the present points system.

    1. The British bias here is unbelievable….talk about luck when Hamilton is truly being #blessed this season LMAO

      1. Indeed, ridiculous, I’d say some luck for verstappen was in order.

  2. Q3 things:

    1. Hamilton is the GOAT!
    2. Bottas is garbage
    3. Lance is a buffoon

    1. I think you need to grow up a bit.

  3. I have to say from my point of view Verstappen drove the best race, he just kept it clean and fast all the way. Hamilton/Merc are going to have to really do some magic to seal the titles this year.

    1. Absolutely @johnrkh. Under normal circumstances, I don’t see Hamilton clinching the title. He needs to be flawless and bad luck on Verstappen’s side to win in the end.

      1. @johnrk @x303 will depend entirely on the cars. Brazil, Mexico, maybe Abu Dhabi, probably Red Bull. Turkey? Who knows. Austin, 50/50, erring on the side of Merc. Saudi Arabia?

        On balance that’s a Verstappen advantage. We’ll see.

    2. @johnrkh I think Hamilton’s race was much tougher than Max’s.

      Just like Monza, Lewis was stuck behind McLarens capable of fastest laps. Verstappen doesn’t really have to overtake a lot of cars and he got very, very lucky with Leclerc. That was a race ending incident.

      I’m not sure Lewis can beat so many cars – even Bottas is of greater help to Verstappen in general as he manages to put in a great quali lap making life difficult for Lewis as we saw in Monza. There are 3 cars in the midfield (Perez, Gasly, Tsunoda) that Max can just swing by instantly. Red Bull’s bench has so much depth and now they’ll have Albon. Come to think of it, Bottas might be slowing down Lewis more than he’s been slowing down Max…

      It’s a tough championship for Mercedes no doubt.

  4. This balances at least part of the Baku bad luck. 12 points more than 7th place finish

    1. No if anything this balances on GP van Emilia-Romagna.

    2. I’d rather say this balances out just the grid penalty as a result of Silverstone. Now we need a DNF from Lewis (ref Silverstone result) and a limping home towards place 6 or 7 from Lewis to get things even (ref Hungary). Not considering Baku, which was just bad luck for Max

  5. *Should be 3 things…

    Guess I’m a buffoon too…Lol! 🤣

  6. To be fair no one dares to get in Verstappens’ way, which is just as he likes it… or else.

    1. Leclerc would disagree with you, he nearly slammed Max into the wall, Max could only just back out and save his front wing.

      Stroll did it a bit better on Vettel later on the race as Stroll actually hit Vettel and somehow Vettel despite hitting the wall and getting a little air still managed to pass his blind teammate.

  7. That was a great race from Max, didn’t put a wrong foot in the race, maybe a bit lucky with rain but he judged the pit to perfection, like he said if he had gone earlier he would have destroyed the inters.

    Reply moderated
  8. Definitely lucked in there, but great for the championship! (In terms of excitement and keeping the points close)
    Genuinely thought Verstappen’s race was undermined by stopping when he did, and not eeking out at least another 4 laps.

    1. You’re right: RedBull’s strategy was sub-optimal. Usually they are sharp strategy wise, I don’t understand why they pitted Verstappen around the same time as Hamilton, when he had more durable tires.

      1. Indeed, I and my father noticed this too, he didn’t have to cover hamilton.

    2. Actually, I think it was the right thing to do. At the time he was only around 4s behind Hamilton on track. By pitting with Hamilton it should have out them on a similar strategy whilst maintaining a that gap whereas Hamilton would have extended that gap if Verstappen had stayed out. Unfortunately he had a long stop which put 2 or 3 cars between them when he exited the pits as opposed to Hamiltons clear track.

  9. This sure was some hint of luck going Max’ way for a change. Mentally this is quite a blow for Lewis. Feel sorry for Lando.

    1. But am I wrong or is this only slight luck? Norris seemed to have the measure of hamilton on the dry, so hamilton gained 7 points and verstappen 12, that’s a very slight luck swing to me.

      1. Its very thin compared to Lewis’ luck, but it is some finally

  10. Driving from last to 2nd is a great achievement, whatever way you look at it. He got stuck behind Ricciardo for quite a while, but had the better strategy for the inters. Regarding his massive grid penalty this is the best damage control he could achieve, making no mistakes.

  11. Even without the rain, if Verstappen hadn’t used up his new mediums too soon, or Red Bull had swapped drivers straight away after Perez’ stop, Verstappen might not have lost out to Alonso and would have ended up 5th, and with Hamilton a likely 2nd, the points gap would only have been 8.

    It would not have been nice to sacrifice Perez’ race, but when Mercedes are so blatantly using their driver as a helper that he will even happily announce before the race that he’s prepared to get under the bus, Red Bull should really follow suit if it’s this close in the championship, and with Mercedes now having the car advantage.

    1. Indeed, it definitely was possible with good tyres to get 5th for verstappen on the dry.

    2. Possibly even better, perez overtook ricciardo at some point, why couldn’t verstappen with proper tyres?

  12. Yea that early stop meant if it didn’t rain he would have been in big trouble at the end. Even Karun was like he needs two stops now.

  13. Max got so lucky he didn’t end his race with Leclerc. Between Monza and Sochi his luck has saved him 50 points…

    1. think he lifted there just in time to avoid a racing ending crash, so how is that luck?

    2. Going with that line of reasoning everybody has been extremely fortunate yesterday that they managed to break in time for all those corners..

  14. Lucky yes. But at times you make your own luck. This is where Bottas should have come in. Otherwise, who knows what could have been…

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